How to Boost Your Immune System with a Plant-Based Diet & Healthy Lifestyle

Since the start of the lockdown, many of us have noticed some significant changes in our lifestyles. Where eating is concerned, we have more opportunities to snack and more time to try out new recipes in the kitchen / on the BBQ. Gym lovers are having to work out at home and embrace the great outdoors, and personal trainers are offering dynamic digital sessions via video calls. Many of us have also have noticed a significant increase in our stress levels due to additional pressures caused by the coronavirus.

A strong immune system is our best defence against infectious illness and disease. Today, I am sharing some tips to help you boost your immune system and maintain a healthy lifestyle:

1.) Eat Well

It is more important than ever that we are getting all the nutrients we need to support normal functioning of the immune system. A plant-based diet rich in fresh, whole foods with plenty of organic fruit and vegetables is a brilliant place to start. If you love to snack throughout the day, try some of these wonderful vegan options! Wherever possible, try to steer clear of process foods, chemicals and excess sugar, which can weaken the immune system

Heather Russell, Vegan Society Dietitian, says "While we follow government guidance about coronavirus, we can certainly strive to look after ourselves in other ways. For example, we can encourage each other to keep active at home, eat well as much as possible and take steps to promote mental wellbeing."


2.) Exercise Regularly

The World Health Organisation recommends that adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. Alternatively, we should try to complete at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity activity. 
Some health benefits of regular exercise: 
  • Lower rates of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon and breast cancer, and depression.
  • Less risk of a hip or vertebral fracture.
  • A higher level of cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness.
  • Weight maintenance and have a healthier body mass / composition.

3.) Get A Good Night's Sleep

Sleep is vital for our overall wellbeing. According to The National Sleep Foundation, your body needs sufficient sleep so that your body can make fewer cytokines. Cytokines are a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. 18-64 year olds need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep per night, compared to children aged 6-13, who need a whopping 9-11 hours per night. Sleeping in the dark ensures sufficient melatonin production.


4.) Reduce Stress Levels

Stressful times in our lives can have a huge impact on our mental and physical health. Stress can lower our immunity, making us more susceptible to bacteria and viruses. It's really important that we recognise when we are stressed so we can take time out for self-care and rejuvenation. There are many ways to relieve stress, from exercising and meditation to therapy and socialising with loved ones.

For more advice on how to manage stress, please click here.


5.) Drink Alcohol in Moderation

According to DrinkAware, the short and long-term effects of alcohol can affect your body, lifestyle and mental health. There are many reasons why we shouldn't drink excessively, but the good news is that there are many non-alcoholic beverages on offer, from healthy juices to non-alcoholic beers, wines and spirits! If you need advice on how to cut back, please click here.


6.) Take Steps to Avoid Infection

We've all been hearing the NHS tips for minimising the risk of infection, which includes regularly washing your hands with soap and water (do this for at least 20 seconds). For more advice, please see the NHS guidelines here.


Author: Victoria Forbes-Watson

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